“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” – George Bernard Shaw
Recently I acted on emotions rather than logic because of a hard lesson that was taught to me years ago. Last week I publicly confronted a job spammer on LinkedIn. I should have known better. Showing someone the error of their ways never works if they are as despicable as I suspected this liar to be. It is like blowing your horn at a reckless driver… they don’t learn and you look like a jerk. The temptation to react rather than to respond intelligently comes from somewhere deep inside where the bad things live. Here is the story of the events that planted that seed of angst.
Without going into a total opening of the kimono, I returned from Vietnam in one piece and managed to maintain a bit of sanity through it all. War does that. It puts a lot of unspoken things into perspective and a bit of forced premature maturity doesn’t hurt either. Opening my mind to anything and everything, struggling to find a future course for my life, some decisions looked bright and shiny because the brand polishers had been at work hiding the flaws of some opportunities. Enter the Holiday Magic Business… stage left.
Holiday Magic was the brain child of William Penn Patrick, a failed serial entrepreneur who bought out a struggling manufacturer of home care products and cosmetics, Zolene, and its entire inventory for under $20,000. A student of Alexander Everett, the founder of Mind Dynamics, Patrick used these methods and also the Silva Mind Control Method to recruit and train an almost cult-like following using the mantra that anybody could become rich. He used legitimate lessons from authors like Napoleon Hill whose book “Think and Grow Rich” was almost a bible. Military psychological ops techniques were not as insidious as this group and its leaders. Enter me… stage right.
Called Multi-Level Marketing, or MLM, this form of business takes legitimate products and offers “opportunities” to sell the products at a small mark-up… obviously a larger margin to the company from which these distributors had to order their inventory. The real money was supposedly not from direct sales, but the further recruitment of other distributorships where a portion of those sales also went to the person recruiting the newbies. This became to be known as a “pyramid” because of the totally illogical premise that everybody can make something from the enterprise. Obviously, if you do the math, only the ones at the top win and everybody else loses.
Fortunately, I was too busy to devote the time necessary to build my “distributorship” even though it was preached over and over again that this was a job anybody could do in their spare time. After all, don’t millionaires just sit back and count their money while everybody else does the work for them? I didn’t buy that philosophy then and saw through the scam before getting in too deeply. The best thing I learned from this experience was that some people are not as honest as I hoped to be, but also that they couldn’t convince me to join them in doing something dishonest. I could hear my father’s voice telling me as a child, “If it looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t!”
So rather than confronting the job spammers last week, an action accomplishing nothing, what is the best action to take? How about writing a blog post to let others know? Ta daaa! In assisting job seekers in their search for legitimate opportunities it is important for someone to sound the alarm that opportunity may only knock once, but everything that knocks is not necessarily an opportunity. This is why it is also very important for recruiters and employers to be involved in building trust… with their customers, with their employees, and with candidates for hire. Trust can be given, but it cannot be assumed to be free. Trust must be earned after a brief period of simple risk assessment allows it to happen.
So don’t learn from my lesson or because I tell you that there are scams out there. Learn from the history:
After a ten year run, led by a charismatic leader in William Penn Patrick, that leader met his untimely end in a tragic plane crash. Following his death, it was less than a year until his company also died. The company’s CEO and President Roland Nocera pleaded guilty to securities fraud unrelated to Holiday Magic. Larry Huff, another leader in the company, served two years in federal prison for a Ponzi scheme. These were the esteemed characters in charge of dispensing Mind Dynamics over their converts! A class action settlement against the company awarded $2.6 million and the company was dissolved. A lot of lawyers got very rich, but most of the rank and file “investors” lost much more than money. Confidence is an investment that is hard to repay. This case is cited as the classic example of pyramid schemes in graduate level courses on criminal justice and in law journals.
Some additional reading:
“History repeats itself, and that’s one of the things that’s wrong with history.” – Clarence Darrow
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